Research Roundup: Johns Hopkins wants you for psilocybin study; cannabis use linked to depression

Are you planning to trip on psilocybin mushrooms in the next six months? If you are, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wants to hear about it

Johns-Hopkins-psilocybin

Scientists from Johns Hopkins have partnered with the Denver-based nonprofit Unlimited Sciences. They hope to learn more about the outcomes of using psilocybin in naturalistic settings. Photo by Cavan Images/iStock/Getty Images Plus

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A naturalistic shroom study

Are you planning to trip on psilocybin mushrooms in the next six months? If you are, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wants to hear about it.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins have partnered with the Denver-based nonprofit Unlimited Sciences. They hope to learn more about the outcomes of using psilocybin in naturalistic settings. In this case, “naturalistic” means outside a research laboratory.

As the project’s webpage reads:

By collecting data from individuals who are already planning to use psilocybin, we aim to investigate variables such as demographics, lifestyle, mindset, and personality traits, as well as characteristics of the experience itself such as dosage, ingestion method, intention, and setting, that could influence psilocybin’s long-term effects.

Unlimited Sciences webpage

The study asks participants to fill out a set of up to five surveys. They will be permitted to opt out or reschedule at any time, however.

An August 12 press release quotes Unlimited Sciences Board President Heather Jackson as saying:

People around the world have used Psilocybin and other psychedelics for hundreds of years, in a widespread natural history experiment. Research suggests these compounds produce remarkable experiences felt to be profoundly meaningful, with enduring positive changes in attitudes, moods, and behavior, years into the future. By expanding this study to include far more examples of real-life usage and outcomes, we can continue to learn more and refine our research. A study of this type can direct future controlled clinical trials.

Heather Jackson, Unlimited Sciences

Johns Hopkins, meanwhile, has been on the forefront of research into psychedelics. The university’s Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, for example, has studied psilocybin’s potential in the treatment of depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and anorexia nervosa.

Cannabis and depression

A repeated cross-sectional study of 16, 216 U.S. adults aged 20 to 59 found that those with depression increased their rates of cannabis use significantly faster than those without depression.

Researchers from New York State Psychiatric Institute looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found “a marked increase in the association between any and daily or near-daily cannabis use and depression from 2005 to 2016”.

In 2005 to 2006, individuals with depression had 46% higher odds of any cannabis use and 30% higher odds of near-daily cannabis use. In 2015 to 2016, individuals with depression had 130% higher odds of any cannabis use and 216% higher odds of daily cannabis use. These results suggest that over time, a higher proportion of individuals with depression are using cannabis. 

Gorfinkel et al., “Association of Depression With Past-Month Cannabis Use Among US Adults Aged 20 to 59 Years, 2005 to 2016”

Did they smoke weed because they were depressed? Or were they depressed because they smoked weed? A good question, albeit one with no definitive answer. According to the study’s authors, however, the former is more likely.

This could be the case if an increasing number of individuals with depression are using cannabis to self-medicate, potentially influenced by media and advertising presenting cannabis as beneficial to health. These results could also be interpreted as indicating that an increasing proportion of individuals who use cannabis are developing depression. However, if this were true, we would expect to see that as the prevalence of cannabis use increased, the prevalence of depression increased as well. However, depression stayed relatively stable during the study period, not supporting the latter interpretation.

Gorfinkel et al., “Association of Depression With Past-Month Cannabis Use Among US Adults Aged 20 to 59 Years, 2005 to 2016”

The researchers published their work at JAMA Network Open.

Thanks for the tip

Have you read a recent study that sheds new light on the topic of cannabis? Are you learning things about shrooms even Johns Hopkins doesn’t know? Are you a researcher working on a clinical trial? If so, send me a link and I might feature it in a future edition of CannCentral’s Research Roundup. Thanks!

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